Bruxism – or teeth grinding – is common and often occurs while you’re sleeping. Although medical professionals do not fully understand what causes it, bruxism is often linked to stress, certain lifestyle habits, and sleep disorders.
Bruxism is sometimes difficult to detect, particularly if you’re grinding your teeth while sleeping. However, it is important to diagnose and treat this condition as early as possible, as continuous teeth grinding can have serious repercussions for your oral health. Read on to learn more about the basics of bruxism.
What Are Some Common Signs of Bruxism?
If you have bruxism, you may not realize it unless a sleep partner hears your teeth grinding and tells you about it. However, there are several other subtle symptoms that can suggest that you have bruxism.
The following are some common signs of bruxism to look out for and discuss with your dentist:
- Dull headache that often starts in your temples, especially when you wake up
- Chipped, loose, or fractured teeth
- Sore or tight jaw
- Tooth pain or sensitivity
- Damage from chewing the inside of your cheek
- Pain in your neck, face, or ear
- Popping or clicking in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
Can Bruxism Harm Your Oral Health?
If left untreated, severe bruxism can cause damage to your teeth, as well as the surrounding tissues and bone structures. With this in mind, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as you notice symptoms. The sooner you begin treating your bruxism, the better your chances of avoiding serious oral health complications.
Bruxism can harm your overall oral health in several ways, including:
- Tooth damage – Your teeth may wear down on the biting surfaces or become chipped, loose, cracked, or broken. As a result, they may be more likely to become decayed or infected.
- Sensitivity and gum infection – Your gums may become irritated if you habitually grind your teeth. They can recede and pull away from your teeth, increasing your risk of infection and tooth loss.
- TMJ problems – Clenching your teeth and jaw puts extra pressure on the joints that connect your jawbone to your skull (TMJ). In some cases, the jaw can become dislocated, which requires surgery to correct.
Can a Nightguard Help if You Have Bruxism?
If your dentist diagnoses you with bruxism, they may recommend that you wear a nightguard. Your dentist can create a customized mouthguard that you can wear to protect your teeth from bruxism while you sleep. It forms a protective barrier between your upper and lower teeth and can absorb the force of clenching and grinding.
What Are Some Alternative Treatment Strategies?
While a nightguard is a common treatment for bruxism, it isn’t the only one. The following are some alternative treatments that can sometimes be in place of or alongside a nightguard:
- Stress management – including counseling, yoga, meditation, and making time for self-care
- Lifestyle modifications – like avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and smoking, which can increase your chances of developing bruxism
- Oral exercises – that help you practice the best position for your tongue, teeth, and lips
- Biofeedback – which uses an electronic instrument to measure the muscle activity in your mouth and jaw, signaling you to indicate potentially harmful motions
- Medications – such as a muscle relaxant (for a short period of time) or anti-anxiety medication
Don’t Wait to Treat Bruxism
Bruxism is a common issue with a variety of effective treatment strategies. However, if not addressed promptly, this condition can lead to significant dental health issues. By visiting your dentist for routine check-ups and paying close attention to potential symptoms, you can help detect and treat the problem before it causes any lasting damage. If you think you may be grinding your teeth, don’t wait to reach out to your dentist.